Jonathan Villar has quietly had a great season
Brewers leadoff man and infielder Jonathan Villar went 1-for-3 with his 16th home run and 54th stolen base of the season in Tuesday night’s 6-2 loss to the Reds in a battle of NL Central afterthoughts. The Brewers are now 64-80, so Villar’s season has flown under the radar.
Villar is the first player with at least 15 home runs and 50 stolen bases in a season since Carl Crawford did it in 2009 for the Rays (15 HR, 60 SB). It’s only the ninth such season in the 2000’s. Villar also has 34 doubles. If we add a 30-plus doubles qualifier, Jose Reyes was the last to do it, in 2006.
Villar has been worth 3.5 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference. He’s played a majority of his games -- 108 of 139 -- at shortstop. The only National League shortstops who have been more valuable than Villar are Corey Seager (5.9 WAR), Addison Russell (4.7), and Brandon Crawford (3.9). The list is basically the same if you’re more of a FanGraphs WAR person, but the gap is wider between Villar (2.7 WAR) and the others (ex. Seager, 7.3).
Who saw Villar becoming a top-five shortstop in the National League? It was particularly hard to predict considering top prospect Orlando Arcia was garnering all of the attention about the Brewers’ future at the position. Arcia, however, has put up a .660 OPS in 144 plate appearances since his promotion in early August.
With another productive season under his belt, Villar’s value to the Brewers is twofold. He’s versatile, so the club can play him at second base, third base, shortstop, or even in the outfield as needed. He can be a valuable member of the club’s future even with Arcia likely laying claim to shortstop for the foreseeable future. Or the Brewers could try to capitalize on his value and trade Villar. He won’t be arbitration eligible until after the 2018 season and won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season.
Villar, by the way, was among the three players the Phillies sent to the Astros near the trade deadline in 2010 in exchange for Roy Oswalt. He mostly struggled in three years in Houston, then was traded to the Brewers for minor league pitcher Cy Sneed this past offseason. No matter which direction the Brewers decide to go in with Villar, they will have made out very well when all is said and done.